Vanessa gonerilla (Fabricius, 1775)

REDUCED_NZ-Ento-Soc-Insect-Playing-Cards_Red-Admiral RED

Common name: Red admiral butterfly, kahukura

Order: Lepidoptera       Family: Nymphalidae

Size: 50-60mm wingspan

92% of the Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies) found in New Zealand are only found here which is the highest rate of endemism for the group in the world. These include three species of admiral butterflies of which the red admiral butterfly or kahukura (“red cloak”) is one. In both Māori and English this species named for the vibrant red patches on their wings. The other two admiral species are the yellow admiral which is common throughout New Zealand and the Chathams Island admiral which is restricted to the Chathams Islands.

Like the yellow admiral, the red admiral is common throughout the mainland but unfortunately needs have New Zealand tree nettles (Urtica ferox) nearby. While the adults feed on the nectar of a range of flowers, the nettle is an important food source for admiral caterpillars but its not very popular in gardens because of its poisonous stings. As a result, the red admiral has all but vanished from large cities such as Auckland.


Gibbs, G. More red admiral butterflies around … but at a price. Retrieved from

Forest and Bird. Native NZ Butterflies. Retrieved from view-source:

Patrick, B. ‘Butterflies and moths – Species’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved from (accessed 3 November 2016)

T.E.R:R.A.I.N Taranaki Educational Resource: Research, Analysis and Information Network (Last updated 2016). Red Admiral butterfly (Vanessa gonerilla gonerilla). Retrieved